1.What did the student athletes say they expected or thought might be true about biological differences between Black and White people that relates to sports? (LENGTH: A few sentences.)
- What have you heard (or said) that is somewhat similar to what those student athletes said about biological differences between Black and White people and sports? Give examples. (LENGTH: A few sentences.)
A biological anthropologist, Alan Goodman, in the video uses the term “paradigm shift” saying
“To understand why the idea of race is a biological myth requires a major paradigm shift, an absolute paradigm shift, a shift in perspective. And for me, it’s like seeing, you know, what it must have been like to understand that the world isn’t flat. And perhaps I can invite you to a mountain top and you can look out the window and at the horizon and see, “oh what I thought was flat I can see a curve in now,” that the world is much more complicated. In fact, that race is not based on biology but race is rather an idea that we ascribe to biology.
Below I, Dr. , offer you some explanation of the concept of a paradigm and of a paradigm shift to help you understand his use of that phrase:
A paradigm refers to the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methods of study that are commonly accepted by members of an academic discipline or a society or group of people.
Here is an example of a paradigm shift in psychology and education that you have probably already learned something about:
In the early part of the 20th century, the understanding of learning and of education was dominated by the paradigm of behaviorism. Behaviorism viewed learning as occurring through and motivated by rewards and punishments, incentives, consequences. It tended to support the idea of rote learning, learning through repetition of things taught from the “outside.” (Think Skinner, and Watson.)
In the middle of 20th century a new paradigm, Constructivism came to the fore. It emphasized cognitive processes, the student as an active learner, constructing their understandings of the world through their experiences with it. (Think Piaget.) Teachers began to change their approach. They saw their role as stimulating the child’s thinking on the “inside.” Instead of just “pouring rote information” into them from the outside, it was now believed that teachers should give children experiences through which they could actively learn and discover things, construct their understanding of things. (Piaget thought children would “figure out” or develop concrete operational thinking just thorough their experiences with the physical world, for example.)
So in psychology and education, the shift from behaviorism to constructivism was a major change in a whole way of thinking about people and learning and education, enough of a change to be called a paradigm shift,
- What does the video say about how different humans are from one another genetically – compared to penguins and compared to fruit flies? (LENGTH: A few sentences.)
- What are six or seven of the many examples of things that scientists and pseudo-scientists for two hundred years tried to measure and calibrate in their “hunt for the fundamental sources of racial difference?” Something that they thought would be found only in “Negroes” or only in “White people.” (LENGTH: Just a list)
Pay attention to this part of the video, that I’ve included the transcript to below. Do your best to understand it, but there are no questions on it. In the video the narrator and the scholars Hammonds and Goodman tell us that at the beginning of the 20th century (100+ years ago):
“African Americans lived under the yoke of Jim Crow segregation. Most surviving Native Americans had been banished to reservations. And new immigrants crowded into urban ghettos. Disease was rampant. Death rates soared. Infant mortality was high. To many, this reflected a preordained natural order.
HAMMONDS: Those that looked, wanted to confirm what they saw, which is to say that the proper place of, say the Negro, or in other regions of the country, the Native American, or the Chinese, were at the bottom of the, the social and political hierarchy. And if you can say that they are fundamentally biologically different, then they should be, then it’s natural for them to be at the bottom of our social hierarchy.
GOODMAN: The biology becomes an excuse for social differences. The social differences become naturalized in biology. [They claim] It’s not that our institutions cause differences in infant mortality, it’s that there really are biological differences between the races.
A book was published in 1896, the same year the Supreme Court legalized segregation (Plessy v. Ferguson decision) called Hoffman’s Race, Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro.
It and other books of the time “looked at other groups of people in various stages beneath them as approaching the completely civilized stage.”
NARRATOR “Hoffman presented his statistical data as unimpeachable science. He compared rates of death and disease between African Americans and whites, and, not surprisingly, found enormous disparities. But his data analysis was flawed. He ignored the insidious effects of poverty and social neglect on health.”
In contrast to today’s common — and false — racial belief in Black physical superiority, Hoffman concluded that African Americans were innately infirm – weak, unhealthy.
This became an “intellectual” “scientific” support for the Eugenics movement.
- Briefly describe what you learned about the Eugenics movement in the documentary — what it believed and what it advocated for. (LENGTH: A few sentences)
- What society used American ideas of Eugenics in the 1930s and 1940s to justify its horrific policies? Which policies and actions? (LENGTH: Two sentences)
The German Nazis at the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 were stunned and angry at Jesse Owens’ magnificent performance because it went against their ideas that Black people were inferior in all ways, intellectually and physically. But….
- How did American racists interpret Jesse Owens stunning performance at the Olympics, shifting their argument from the earlier version saying Blacks were physically inferior, to continue to maintain that Black people were genetically/racially inferior? (LENGTH: About two sentences.)
EF Note: This was a paradigm shift in American racism/racial ideology. Think (no writing required): How is this idea largely part of thinking about race in the U.S. today?
Pay attention to this part of the video, which I’ve included the transcript for below
Alan Goodman says, “Think about race in its universality. Where is your measurement device? There is no way to measure race. We sometimes do it by skin color, other people may do it by hair texture – other people may have the dividing lines different in terms of skin color. What is black in the United States is not what’s black in Brazil or what’s black in South Africa.”
Stephen Jay Gould says, “My favorite trivia question in baseball is which Italian-American player for the Brooklyn Dodgers once hit 40 home runs in a season and no one ever gets it right, because the answer is Roy Campanella, who is as Italian as he was Black. He had an Italian father and a Black mother, he’s always classified as Black. You see, American racial classification is totally cultural. Who’s Tiger Woods? Who’s Colin Powell? Colin Powell’s as Irish as he is African. Being Black has been defined as just looking dark enough that anyone can see you are.”
Hammonds says, “When I was a child, one of the things my father bought me was a set of Time-Life books on science. And a book on evolution had in it a skin color scale that went from one to thirty-six. And I would spend hours putting my arm against the scale in the book, the picture in the book, trying to figure out what number my color was. And I couldn’t quite find myself on the scale.”
- What do the students in the high school science lab discover when they try to find their skin tones on a chart. What surprises some of them? (LENGTH: A few sentences.)
- Do your best to explain what the current scientists (such as Mary-Claire King) say about why populations around the world have lighter and darker skin. (LENGTH: One paragraph)
You may not get this 100% perfectly right, but try your best. We will go over it together.
10a. At one point in the film, the narrator asks us to imagine what we would see in changes in skin tones if we walked by foot across the earth away from the equator. Briefly describe what you see in this part of the video. (LENGTH: A few sentences)
10b. How does seeing that challenge our U.S. categories of distinct “racial groups” of “White” and “Black?” (LENGTH: A few sentences)
Below is the transcript of portions of one section of the video that we will discuss in class together. Please watch this section of the video carefully and try to understand it as best as you can. There are no questions for you on it. I will go over it with you in class to help you understand it more fully.
Human biological variation is so complex. There is so many aspects of human variation. So there are many, many ways to begin to explain them.
Variation in some traits — like eye shape, hair texture, whether or not your tongue curls, involves very few genes. And even those genes haven’t all been identified.
Variation in traits we regard as socially important is much more complicated. Differences in how our brains work, how we make art, how gracefully we move.
Genes may contribute to variation in these traits, but to the extent they do, there would be a cascade of genes at work, interacting with each other and the environment, in relationships so intricate and complex, that science has hardly begun to decipher them.
LEWONTIN: People are always talking about genes for things, the genes for athletic ability, the genes for making money, the genes for intelligence. And you have to be very careful. Even when there are genes that influence those things, to talk about it as genes for them is not so clear.
OSSORIO: What makes us different is both those genetic differences that we have between us and also the interaction of that genome with the environment, and the environment is a very, very complicated thing. So when I say, I sort of mean the environment writ large, everything from the environment in the womb to the environment in your school.
NARRATOR: In the urban environment of the 1930s, Jewish teams dominated American basketball. Sons of immigrants, theirs were the hoop dreams of the day.
GRAVES: And it was said that the reason that they were so good at basketball was because the, the artful dodger characteristic of the Jewish culture made them good at this sport. There are strong cultural aspects of what sports individuals choose to play that has to do with the interaction of individual genetic background of opportunity and training. History shows us, that as opportunities change in society, different groups get drawn into sporting arenas.
NARRATOR: By 1992, America’s Olympic Dream team was almost completely African American. Ten years later, almost 20% of NBA starters would be foreign born. The top NBA draft pick? Chinese.
GRAVES: We can’t come to any fast hard rule about how, uh, genetic ancestry is going to influence the ability of an individual to perform an athletic event. So I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to isolate a gene for athletic performance.
NARRATOR: Or a gene for any complex trait. If genes contribute to Marcus’ musical talent, there would be dozens, interacting with environment, training, and practice. Those genes would be inherited independently of the genes for eye shape, skin color and hair form which Marcus inherited through his Korean – and Jamaican ancestors.
GOODMAN: For race to be more than skin deep, one has to have concordance. In other words, skin color needs to reflect things that are deeper in the body, under the skin. But most of human variation is non-concordant. Skin color or eye color or hair color is not correlated with height or weight. And they’re definitely not correlated with more complex traits like intelligence or athletic performance.
NARRATOR: The tools of modern genetics allow the students to explore the idea of race and concordance. From the beginning, they believed they would be most similar genetically to those whose racial ancestry they believed they shared.
NARRATOR: If human variation were to map along racial lines, people in one so-called race would be more similar to each other than to those in another so-called race.
That’s not what the students found in their mtDNA. What about other genetic differences?
LEWONTIN: The problem for evolutionists and population geneticists was always to try to actually characterize how much genetic variation there was between individuals and groups. And I spent a lot of time worrying about that, like other people in my profession.
In the 1960s, Richard Lewontin decided to find out just how much genetic variation fell within, and how much between, the groups we regard as races. A new technology enabled him to do pioneering work.
LEWONTIN found “If you put it all together, and we’ve now got that for proteins, for blood groups, and now with DNA sequencing, we have it for DNA sequence differences, it always comes out the same. 85% of all the variation among human beings is between any two individuals within any local population. Between individuals within Sweden, or within the Chinese, or the Kikuyus, or the Icelanders.
NARRATOR: To put it another way, of the small amount of variation in our genes, there is apt to be as much difference between Gorgeous and her teammate Christine, as there is between Gorgeous and her opponent Kaylin. Any two individuals within any so-called race may be as different from each other as they are from any individual in another so-called race.
OSSORIO: Are the people who we call Black more like each other than they are like people who we call white, genetically speaking? Um, the answer is no. There’s as much or more diversity and genetic difference within any racial group as there is between people of different racial groups.
- What did you learn about sickle cell disease, which is assumed by most people in the U.S. to be a disease of “Black” people? (LENGTH: A paragraph)
Pay careful attention to this section of the video, for which I have included the transcript below.. There are no HW questions on it. Just do your best to understand it. I will discuss it and try to help make it as clear as I can:
Race does not account for patterns of genetic variation. Our recency as a species and the way we have moved and mated throughout our history, does. Our human lineage originated in Africa. About two million years ago, small groups of early hominids – not modern humans — began a first migration out of Africa to the far reaches of the globe, breeding isolated lineages. It was long thought, and is still believed by some, that those first lineages led to genetically distinct races that are with us today.
GOULD: It turns out that’s not true. I think there’s almost genetic proof now – I wouldn’t say the issue is totally resolved — that those lineages just died out. That Neanderthals in Europe died. That homo erectus in Asia died. That there was a second migration of our modern species homo sapiens, and that all modern humans are products of the second migration, which is probably less than a hundred thousand years old, by the best current evidence.
GOODMAN: Some of those movements may follow major migrations as agricultural people came into Europe, as people crossed the Bering Strait and came into the Americas.
But, other movements are much more subtle. They’re smaller groups of individuals that moved, or their genes moved from place to place, and time to time.
We’ve had maybe a hundred thousand years of having genes move out and mix and re-sort in countless different ways. [EF: The current most common view among scientists who study this is that humans did not leave and spread out from Africa until only 60,000 years ago]
NARRATOR: A hundred thousand years may seem like a long time, but in evolutionary terms, it is a blink of the eye. Human populations have not been isolated from each other long enough to evolve into separate subspecies.
GOULD: There just hasn’t been time for the development of much genetic variation, except that which regulates some very superficial features like skin color and hair form. [EF: I will go over this point and try to make it clear] For once, the old cliché is true. Under the skin, we really are effectively the same. And we get fooled, because some of the visual differences are quite noticeable.
NARRATOR: The superficial traits we use to construct race are recent variations. By the time they arose, important and complicated traits, like speech, abstract thinking, even physical prowess, had already evolved. [EF: I will go over this point and try to make it clear.]
KING: As geneticists, we now have the opportunity to investigate, using proper genomic analysis, complex human traits: athletic ability, musical ability, intelligence, all these wonderful traits that we wish we understood better and for which we’d very much like to know if there are genes that are involved, how they interact, how they play out. Those traits are old.
We spent most of our history, as a species, together in Africa in small populations before anyone left. There’s far more of us now than those small, original populations that founded our species. Each of us carries with us some very recent variation and some common, shared variation that goes way back in human history.
NARRATOR: Variations among us in those old traits developed independent of and non-concordant with variations in the recent, superficial traits we think of as racial. Human variation does not map onto what we call race. No matter how we might measure it.
- What did the students find from their mitochondrial DNA that surprised them? Explain. (LENGTH: A few sentences)
- What did the students find from the sequence of their nuclear DNA that surprised them? Explain. (LENGTH: A few sentences)
- Name the students who turned out to be most similar to which students? And different from? What were the “races” of those students who were most similar and most different? (LENFTH: A few sentences)
Note these points in the transcript of a part of the video below. There are no questions on this. I will go over this in class to help you understand it.
NARRATOR: Today’s genetic findings corroborate Richard Lewontin’s genetic findings of thirty years ago. Because of our history of moving, mating, and mixing, most human variation, especially that of older complex traits, can be found within any population. Most of it from a common source: in Africa.
GOULD: We have now understood genetic variation in human beings. I’m not saying our knowledge is fixed for all time – it never is, but I think we have seen just how shallow and superficial the average differences are among human races even though in certain features like skin color and hair form the visual differences are fairly striking. They’re based on almost nothing in terms of overall genetic variation.
Note this portion of the video towards the end, where it says that although race is not biologically real it “is a very salient social and historical concept, a social and historical idea. We live in racial smog”.
OSSORIO: Just because race isn’t something biological, that doesn’t mean it’s not real. There are a lot of things in our society that are real and are not biological. Race as we understand it, as a social construct, has a lot to do with where somebody will live, what schools they will go to, what jobs they will get, whether or not they will have health insurance.
NARRATOR: Black, white and brown are merely skin colors. But we attach to them meanings and assumptions, even laws, that create enduring social inequality.
If the playing field were level, the array of opportunities open to Gorgeous and her teammates would not be limited by assumptions society makes about the nature of the genes they inherited.
KING: Lots of things are inherited that don’t have anything to do with genes. Money is inherited. And money goes a long way in increasing someone’s capacity to do well in one area or another.
NARRATOR: Off the track, the playing field is not level. The net [financial] worth of the average white American family is eight times that of the average African American family.
HAMMONDS: Race is a concept that was invented to categorize the perceived biological, social, and cultural differences between human groups.
LEWONTIN: And the beauty of that ideology is that it justifies what is the greatest, uh, social agony of American life, namely, it justifies the inequalities that exist in a society which is said to be based on equality.
HAMMONDS: Race is a human invention. We created it, we have used it in ways that have been in many, many respects quite negative and quite harmful. And we can think ourselves out of it. We made it, we can unmake it.
NARRATOR: The racialized society we live in has been under construction for three centuries. How can we unmake race unless we first confront its enormity as a historical and social reality, and its emptiness as biology?
- What did you learn about Gorgeous near the very end of the video? (LENGTH: One sentence.)
Transcript sections were retrieved from https://newsreel.org/transcripts/race1.htm
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